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Handling Customer Complaints Like a Pro

No matter how skilled you are or how many years of experience you have under your belt, at some point, every paint contractor has to deal with a less-than-satisfied customer. The challenge is knowing how to handle the situation so that the client continues to believe you run a good company. And, even better, the customer is so impressed by your response, he or she becomes a passionate advocate for your brand.

Unfortunately, handling a dissatisfied customer can be difficult, as many don't even bother to complain. They simply walk away and work with your competitors, which means that simple customer satisfaction is not enough. These days, businesses need to leave a positive impression on their customers if they want to earn their loyalty.

The four top property owner complaints are wrong color, improper preparation, poor workmanship, and spilled paint or damaged property. Here, we take a closer look at the first issue — wrong color.

The process of choosing color for a project can be the most difficult aspect of a paint project. Many customers have a tough time deciding on what colors should be used. Many factors can affect color — including room lighting, the color of furniture in the room, flooring color and the paint's sheen. Therefore, making sure your customer understands this before starting the project is vital to their satisfaction.

If colors aren't clearly defined in the agreement/contract between you and your customer, it could lead to problems down the road. Here are some tips to help reduce color complaints:

  • If possible, limit the choices you give your customer, as the more options you provide, the more difficult it is for them to make color decisions. Provide them with color cards that have preselected color combinations. Dunn-Edwards offers a variety of color cards that have been professionally designed to help in the color selection process.
  • Once your customer has decided on the color or colors, purchase samples for testing. Testing colors in the actual room and substrate can help expedite color selection. After the colors have been chosen, amend the contract — listing the approved colors — and have your customer sign the amended contract. If the customer wants to deviate from the contract, you can include language regarding additional fees for extra samples and labor for applying the additional samples.
  • When ordering the paint for the project, ensure you have the correct color name and number and provide that information to the store associate. When picking up your order, double check the paint and verify that you received the correct colors. If you are not physically picking the paint up yourself or having it delivered, make sure your employee or customer has all the pertinent color information regarding color selection, including color chips of the approved colors.
  • If possible, have the customer verify and approve the final colors before starting the project. This can be done by creating a generic, color sign-off sheet. Have them confirm and approve colors in person.
  • Engage your customer throughout the project to address any color concerns or possible changes. By doing so, you can save your customer both time and money in case they decide to change the color. You can do this by walking the project periodically to answer any questions.

Although these tips may help in reducing the number of color complaints, the reality is that not all complaints can be avoided. The key to addressing any complaint is to ensure they are addressed and handled quickly. Following these steps can help with reaching a satisfactory resolution for both parties: listen to your customer's concerns, be empathetic to their issue, apologize for their issue, have them provide suggestions on what would resolve their issue, and finally solve their issue in a timely manner.

Handling Complaints

In the end, no matter the problem, the ability of a business to effectively deal with customer complaints provides a great opportunity to turn dissatisfied customers into enthusiastic promoters. Here are some customer-oriented tips for handling complaints:

  1. Pay attention to the client's issues and try not to get defensive.
    Most of the time, the customer is upset with the product or service provided — not you, personally. Take the time to help your client understand that you are concerned and prepared to take action to ensure their satisfaction. Repeat what they say to you so they know you are listening carefully to their issue.
  2. Be compassionate and ask thoughtful, caring questions.
    The best way to really understand your customer's perspective is to gather as much vital information as possible. Don't jump to wrong conclusions about the cause of the problem; rather, take your time and ask the right questions.
  3. Let them know you're on the same team.
    Don't forget that the end goal is to solve the problem, not argue about it. It's your responsibility to make the client feel like you're on his or her side and that the issue is as important to you as it is to them.
  4. Take ownership.
    Clients can spot an insincere apology so be sure to take ownership of the problem. When a client believes you are truly sorry, the severity of the issue usually diffuses. Don't blame someone else. Simply say, "I'm sorry about that" and work on fixing the problem.
  5. Finding a solution — together.
    Take the time to find out if the customer has a workable solution already in mind. Regardless, it's a good idea to suggest a few options. Partner with your customer in solving the problem because, even if their solution is unrealistic, making sure they feel part of the process shows that you care and are actually listening and willing to help.
  6. Solve the problem or find someone who can — ASAP!
    Customers want their problems solved quickly and effectively and they prefer working directly with the person who can make that happen. The sooner a client issue is handled, the better. Therefore, get the right personnel involved immediately to speed problem resolution.

As long as there are clients, there will be complaints. And, at some point, you will have to deal with an upset customer and find a resolution to their issue that both you and the customer can live with. So remember: the manner in which you handle complaints plays an important role in determining whether your client sings your praises or walks away on a sour note.